What is diabetic neuropathy?
Neuropathy means nerve disease or damage. Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. People with diabetes often have high blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage nerves throughout your body.
There are three kinds of diabetic neuropathy.
What causes diabetic neuropathy?
Over time, high blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage nerves throughout your body. The higher your blood sugar levels, the more likely you are to have nerve damage. So controlling your blood sugar throughout your life is very important.
The older you get, and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have nerve damage. People with diabetes who drink too much alcohol are also more likely to have nerve damage.
About half of all people who have diabetes end up getting diabetic neuropathy.1
What are the symptoms?
Your symptoms will depend on which nerves are injured. You may not be able to feel pain, especially in your feet. This can lead to serious infections, because sores or other problems may not get treated.
When other parts of your body are affected, symptoms may include:
How is diabetic neuropathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will check how well you feel light touch and temperature and will test your strength and your reflexes. Tests such as electromyogram and nerve conduction studies may be done to confirm the diagnosis. You may need other tests to see which type of neuropathy you have and to help guide your treatment.
Doctors can't test for all types of nerve damage. So it's important to tell your doctor about any pain or weakness you feel. Also mention heavy sweating or dizziness and any changes in digestion, urination, and sexual function.
How is it treated?
Treatment involves keeping blood sugar levels in a target range. This will not cure the nerve damage, but it can help keep the damage from getting worse.
The type of treatment depends on your symptoms:
It is common in diabetes to lose some feeling in your feet. You could have a sore or other foot problem without noticing it. Check your feet every day. An untreated problem on your foot can lead to a serious infection or even amputation.
Be clear with your doctor about what is helping you feel better and what is not. You and your doctor can work together to find the treatment that helps you the most.
Can diabetic neuropathy be prevented?
Keeping your blood sugar levels in a target range may help prevent neuropathy from ever developing. The best way to do this is by getting to and staying at a healthy weight by exercising and eating healthy foods.
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